Meet Ken Yarmosh (@kenyarmosh), founder of savvy apps and a self-made Washington, D.C. mobility entrepreneur. In his interview with WashingtonExec, Yarmosh talks about everything app; how to run a “boutique” company, the D.C. tech and entrepreneur community, as well as the “mobile revolution.” Author of the O’Reilly book, App Savvy: Turing Ideas into iPhone and iPad Apps Customers Really Want, Yarmosh also brings wisdom as to how to manage your online presence and brand.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us a little bit about your background, what compelled you to become an App innovator and provider?
Ken Yarmosh: I’ve always been a bit of a mobile geek. For example, I used to buy Nokia smartphones from European resellers that would work here in the U.S. When the iPhone initially launched, it really captured my attention. Once the App Store came out, I started building apps for myself and then for others. I went on to write a book about the subject (App Savvy – O’Reilly Media) and since then, founded a mobile agency. We still do internal apps (and have a couple of bestsellers) but are largely focused on developing apps for national brands, traditional businesses, and even mobile-focused startups.
WashingtonExec: How is working at a company like Savvy Apps different from the traditional business model?
Ken Yarmosh: Having worked at agencies of various sizes both in DC and NY, I had a very specific vision when founding savvy apps. A major motivation was bucking the trend that bigger is better. Even though people are beating down our door to work with us, and we could grow fairly rapidly, we only take on select engagements. We vet our customers as they do us. I believe that is one of the reasons we’re in such demand in a down economy: staying boutique allows us to produce outstanding quality and results. We’re extremely collaborative with those we work with and exceptionally responsive to them because their app is not just one of a hundred projects.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us about the DC entrepreneur/startup community.
Ken Yarmosh: The DC tech community has really come alive over the last five years thanks to people like Frank Gruber (TECH cocktail), Peter Corbett (DC Tech Meetup / DCWEEK), Zvi Band & Michael Mayernick (Proudly Made in DC), and many others. Beyond the community efforts, the success of a company like LivingSocial is a testament that DC tech is once again not just about big government contracts. We do need more startups to gain that kind of notoriety though. I believe the entrepreneurial environment fostered by the community will be one factor in making that happen.
WashingtonExec: Your website talks about the “mobile revolution,” what is the “mobile revolution”?
Ken Yarmosh: The “mobile revolution” is about three things: 1) Increased portability (duh). 2) Always-on connectivity. 3) Touch-enabled devices. Of those three, the third is the one that is redefining computing as we know it. While that is most evident with new smartphones and tablets, touch is now impacting traditional computers. In particular, Apple has taken its lessons learned from iOS devices and brought it back to the desktop. Their new desktop operating system, OS X 10.7 “Lion” includes Multi-Touch gestures as a primary means for interacting with applications.
WashingtonExec: Do you have a favorite iPhone or iPad App?
Ken Yarmosh: Of course, I’m partial to ours including our #1 calendar app on Apple’s App Store “Agenda” (shameless plug). But in general, I’m a huge consumer of apps. I have well over a hundred on each of my devices and am constantly trying new ones. Like books or movies, there are favorites in each particular genre but for business/productivity apps (in no particular order), I’m partial to Boxcar for managing notifications, Todo for managing tasks, and Elements for managing notes.
WashingtonExec: You have a great personal brand. What would you recommend to people starting to create an online brand?
Ken Yarmosh: I don’t trust formulas but here are some thoughts based on my experience. First, building a reputable presence online doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve been writing my tech blog (now at http://kenyarmosh.com/blog) for about six years and put significant “unthanked” hours into it. Secondly, don’t worry about pleasing others or trying to grow a “personal brand.” Instead, just focus on what interests you. It’s possible this guidance won’t make you the next big tech mogul but I really don’t believe any “big tech mogul” started out with that being the goal; they just followed their interests. And finally, your Facebook or Twitter profile should not be the first search result for your name. Buy a domain with your name, sign up for LinkedIn, or use an About.me page. Anything less, and your personal brand is as mature as a teenager’s.